Tuesday, October 30, 2012

National No Writing Month

Did I use that one last year or did I just think about using it? I suppose I could look it up. It wouldn’t even take that much effort. But whatever. This is a writer’s blog so I suppose there should be the occasional post about, what’s it called, writing, and I figured with November looming two days away, this was the perfect time to do it.

So are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? I’m not, although I planned to. I got bitten by the writing bug back in September and it was strong enough that I didn’t want to wait almost two months. I suppose you could say I completed my own personal NaNo. Although I won’t be able to flash the badge, I’ll be flashing one in spirit.

Wait. That somehow sounds wrong.

Anyway, keep remembering that it’s about quantity, not quality, and no one has to hear about it again after November 30th (which is what happened to my last NaNo piece, by the way). It is an exercise of discipline. If you fail? Don’t freak out about it. Sometimes the writing stars align and sometimes they don’t. Either way, I think we can all agree that no NaNo books are readable come December.

What are your tips for National Novel Writing Month? Are you participating or marveling at it from the sidelines?

PS. Happy day before Halloween! Don’t let the Slenderman get you!

Seriously. He’s coming.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


I am not actually without fear. I believe spiders will try to crawl into my mouth if I’m not careful because they are unholy creatures even Satan shuns. I’m also not a fan of public speaking unless, like here, I can craft my words via typing. But when it comes to movies, books and video games, I’m rarely frightened. This isn’t a shock since I literally grew up reading Stephen King (I was the only fifth grader who brought CHRISTINE to class to read) and was similarly indoctrinated to horror movies (I remember watching Alienwhen I couldn’t have been more than seven). So, in summation, it takes a lot for a book/movie/game to scare me.

There’s a reason I threw “game” in there. While roving through the internet one day when I should have been editing, I came across a story about “the Slender Man”. It’s an urban legend actually invented on the internet, about a tall, thin man in a black suit with no face, just white where eyes and a mouth should be. In all a good story. Nothing to write home about, but hey. It’s different from the usual ghosts and ghouls.

Except. There is a game called Slender, released free for download over the internet. I heard about it and decided to check it out on YouTube and…it was scary. Actually scary. Silent Hill was interesting, but didn’t make me blink and this, released as an indie game, actually frightened me enough that I didn’t want to download it, the crummy YouTube videos were enough for me. Not long after I stumbled across another game, Deep Sleep. It’s a Flixel game and so the graphics aren’t on par with Slender, but it’s still creepy as sh!t. It’s also a short point-and-click game, where you collect items to use to escape a typical scary setting. For such a quick game, it sure gave me chills.

What these games have in common is the lurking figure, the one that remains just out of sight and hunting you. Neither has a strong story or any characters except the first-person player, but those aren’t necessary. You are the character, something is after you, and you have to keep moving. A simple concept, but don’t go mistaking that for a criticism. If you want a good story, look elsewhere. If you want to be scared, go for either one of these games.

And leave the lights on.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Language of Confusion: Fear Itself

It is the season for the spooky and scary, so why don’t we make it all boring by talking about the origins of words that mean frightened. Shall we get started?

Fear: The emotional sense we now call fear did not show up until the twelfth century. During that time, the Old English word faer (noun) or faeran(verb), from which fear descends, meant “sudden danger”. It can be traced further back into the Proto Germanicferaz, meaning danger, and the Proto Indo European per-, which meant something like “to risk”.

Dread: Back when fear was just danger, dread was one of the words for the emotion. It showed up in the late twelfth century as a shortening of adraedan, which itself was short for ondraedanbecause of course it wasn’t short enough. Anyway, besides the meaning we know today, dread also meant “advise against”. Ondraedan is in fact the combination of two Old English words, on- and raedan (you should only need one guess on what that word turned into), which meant advise.

Fright: Surprisingly enough, not etymologically related to fear. It comes from the Old English fryhto,  which was a mess up (or metathesisif you want to get technical) of fyrhtu, another word for fear. Fyrhtu can be traced to the Proto Germanic furkhtaz and although it can’t be traced further, it’s easy to see how different it is from the fear line.

Scare: Also showed up in the early thirteenth century, in this case from the Old Norseskirra, to frighten, and related to skjarr, timid. Further back? Another mystery.

Horror: first showed up in the early fourteenth centuryfrom the Old French word horror (speaking of mysteries) which was taken from the classical Latinhorror (okay, now they’re not even trying to come up with their own word). The Latin horror did have a similar meaning to our horror although only in the figurative sense—literally it was shudder or trembling, which can be the physical reaction of fear. It can be traced all the way back to the Proto Indo European ghers, bristle, as in hair standing on end.

Terror: Showed up with the same definition as in modern times in the late fourteenth century. It came from the Old French terreurand classical Latin terrorem. It also can be traced back to Proto Indo European, from the word tre-, meaning tremble, and which has variations that are the ancestors of terrible, trepidationand tremendous.

Tony Jebson’s page on The Origins of Old English

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Civility

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about bullying in schools, something I experienced, well, a lot. From fourth to eighth grades I was a verbal punching bag for about ten percent of the students and even a few teachers, while the other ninety percent did pretty much nothing no matter how many times I went to the guidance counselors and principals. Seriously, it was to the point that the one time someone stood up for me I was stunned into silence because holy crap, someone with confidence was telling a jerk to shut up and he listened.

But it some ways, I got off easy. Back then (waaaaay long ago, in the nineties) the internet was only partially integrated into our lives. No Facebook, no Myspace, no pages made to make fun of me. And for that I am insanely grateful. I mean, online anonymity is possibly the worst invention for the oversensitive. Have you ever read the comments at the bottom of a news story? That. All the bullies have been given the freedom to behave their worst on a wide scale. How’s that for a Halloween scary story?

So it follows that school bullies plus internet equals bad news. There’s no escape at home anymore, no respite from the pain. Twenty-four seven the immature dillholes who have it out for you can shit on your reputation and remind you that you’re worthless.

I know none of you reading my blog act like this, but I had to get it off my chest. I just wish everyone would be nicer. Not just kids. Everyone. Who do you think they learn from? Adults, who I’ve seen yell at servers for making a sandwich wrong and make fun of those who screw up while playing a baseball game. Bullying behavior should never be tolerated, online or in life. Derisive comments should be deleted—not criticisms but actual harassing, degrading, debasing words. People insulting or bullying others should be told in no uncertain terms to shut up.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences.

Okay, I’ll shut up now. What are your thoughts about online bullying? What do you think should be done about it?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Random Thoughts

---It’s that time yet again.
---If I burn down the world, there won’t be any more spiders. If there’s a downside, I don’t see it.
---“Interrobang” is my current favorite word.
---For the record, it means ?! or !?. Unfortunately, it’s not considered standard for novels, because apparently no one is allowed to do anything fun ever.
---Screw you, Microsoft Word! If “interrobang” isn’t in the dictionary, it’s your problem!
---“NBC has defended its decision to interview a reality TV star instead of observing a moment of silence marking the 11th anniversary of 9/11.” And that defense is: “We cater to our audience. Since no one actually watches our network, that means more Kardashians.”
---Yes, I make fun of NBC a lot. Well, I’ll stop when they stop making it so easy.
---I hate words like disaster that, when you add the suffix –rous, turn into “disastrous”. There should be an e there, dangit.
---Cashews grow on apples. Just so you know.
---Last night I had a horrible dream: the presidential election was postponed for two weeks. Woke up screaming.
---For the record, a flashing yellow light means slow down, proceed with caution, not come to a complete stop for ten seconds to annoy the driver behind you.
---This is why I avoid driving as much as possible.
---“Windows Explorer 8…Not as bad as you’d think!” Somehow I’d be more impressed if the statement didn’t have the little “advertisement” border around it. Also goes to show you how little they think of their own product.
---“Immurement” is entombing someone alive within a structure. For future reference.
---I’m not planning anything.
---In writing, men tend to use pronouns slightly more than women. Also, women use more adjectives. I know that’s true for me.
---I was with my mom while she was watching “Dancing With the ‘Stars’” and I have to say, it’s a lot more tolerable if you pretend it’s the Hunger Games.

And to complete this issue of Random Thoughts, here’s another conversation between me and my mother, taking place after I helped her move a bunch of china around:

Me: Do you need anything else?

Her: Nope.

Me: Am I going to get in the other room and sit down and you’ll call me for something else?

Her: That’s very likely.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Language of Confusion: Advertisement

With all the subliminal advertising going on, I’m surprised it took me this long to do this one. I guess because it’s subliminal, I don’t notice it as much.
Advertisement and advertise first showed up in the early fifteenth century, basically with the same meaning: a public notice. It came from the Middle Frenchavertissement, which in turn came from avertir—advertise. Avertir can be tracedto the Late Latin advertere, which means “turn toward” rather than having anything to do with advertising. See, over the centuries it shifted in meaning from literal turning towards to figuratively turning attention by giving notice to others. It wasn’t until the end of the eighteenth century that the definition of “Notice of goods for sale” was firmly in place.

And of course the shift of the definition gives advertise some interesting relatives. Advert (remark or turn attention to) isn’t that common these days, but avert is, and both are descended from avertir, as is averse. If you pull the Latin advertere apart, you get ad-, a prefix meaning toward, and vertere, to turn, which is the parent of versus, a word I've actually talked about before as being related to worth. And believe me when I say that vertere has a lot more than thosetwo children.

TL;DR: Pretty much any word with “vert” or “verse” in it is from vertere, advertise included.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012


It annoys me when something (particularly something I like, although not exclusively) is deemed “bad” by someone who then hides behind the claim of objectivity. They point out the flaws, true or not, and insist they are correct and because they are being “objective”, opinions to the contrary are tolerated but not considered. The book/television show/movie was bad and those who disagree are either not being objective like them or are simply wrong. But, they continue, it’s okay to like bad things! They can still be fun. They’re still bad, though.

I think that’s pretty dang unfair. Not that there’s not things that are bad by any standard—those are the shows that get cancelled, the movies that are panned, the books that are ignored, all of which drop into nothingness. But then there’s those that inexplicably don’t and become bestsellers against all reason. Well, all your reason anyway.

TWILIGHT, for example, is not something I like. I marvel at its popularity, its appeal, when so many deserving books languish as fallbacks when the book club forgot to pick this month’s selection. Part of me wants to tear out my hair and yell “This is awful and you have to agree or you’re an idiot!”

And that part is dead wrong. I don’t like it, I don’t see anything redeemable in it, but that’s because I don’t understand the attraction. Although are quite a few flaws I could point out to bolster my argument, people who like it might ignore them or just not care, as is their right. My cousin certainly swoons over it (hey, she’s a teenager), but I think I’d be a pretty big jerkass if I told her her favorite book series was bad and it doesn’t matter what she thinks because objectivity. It dismisses her feelings. Worse, it invalidates them, like only I can be right, and as life has showed me repeatedly, I’m wrong all the time. Maybe even about TWILIGHT.

You have no idea how hard it was to type that.

Damn it. There I go again…